Recognition of Friends in Heaven
2 Samuel 12:23
But now he is dead, why should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

The doctrine of our future meeting and recognition is intimated in the earlier records of Scripture. We are told that Abraham was gathered to his people, that Jacob was gathered to his people, that Moses was commanded to go up to Mount Pisgah and be gathered to his people, as Aaron had died on Mount Hot and was gathered to his people. It may be said that this was simply a peculiar idiom of language signifying that they died. This, however, cannot be the case, inasmuch as in some instances it is expressly said they died, and then it is added, were "gathered to their fathers." Nor does it mean that they were buried with their fathers; for in several instances the phrase is employed when they were interred at a distance Of hundreds of miles. Abraham was not buried with his fathers. Moses was not buried with his fathers. Aaron was not buried with his fathers. There would seem to be in the very heart of the expression some recognition that the fathers were still in existence in some state or other. As we advance to the New Testament we find that the twilight is broadening into the perfect day. It is not merely that we are told this in so many words. But it is that so many things are said which would not have been said, unless the doctrine had been true. It forms so much of the very warp of the teaching of our Saviour and His apostles. Like so many other doctrines, it is implied where it is not expressed; and is all the more significantly taught because it appears in this indirect manner. It is taught, for example, that in eternity and in Heaven we shall retain our personal identity. Death does not make us new men. It effects no change of personalities. By the aid of memory we can realise the fact that we are the same we have ever been. The subtle, solemn thread of consciousness binds together all the moments of our past life. We must also remember another fact, and that is that the departed just are not diffused through the universe, but are gathered in one place. It is where Christ is. They are with the Lord. They see His face; they are like Him. And they are not only with the Lord, but they are there in a family relation. We read of the whole family in earth and Heaven. It is a general assembly and church of the first-born; it is a well-ordered household. The saints are brethren, with one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Their Father is One. Now it is only needful to appreciate fully this fact in order to see that recognition, mutual recognition, is indispensable and inevitable. The saints will know at least that they are the redeemed from among men. They will be distinguished from angels who never fell. We do not dream that the spirits of the "just made perfect," dwelling in our Father's house, will sit in silent reserve side by side; and as little do we dream that their speech will never be concerned with the way by which the Lord has led them. They will inspire each other with a more glowing fervour of gratitude as they recount the history of their lives. Given — an eternity which we are to spend in Heaven, a memory which recalls the past with minute and infallible faithfulness, a gratitude quick and never-ending for all the mercies which have followed us all the days of our life; given — too, the love of saint for saint, a social fellowship closer and less reserved than even the most intimate fellowships of earth, and even though at the beginning of our celestial existence we knew not one of the innumerable throng, we should, with the flowing ages, grow into each other's knowledge; friend would find out friend; parents would some day have the ecstasy of embracing their children, partakers with them of a common salvation. You may be perplexed to know in what manner those who will be so changed by the very fact of their not dwelling in houses of clay will be able to recognise each other. Our whole earthly, human life is the learning at one stage the how of what was a mystery to us at an earlier stage. Who knows but that within the tenement of clay there are folded up powers and capacities winch death is needed to release? The dull, creeping chrysalis which you are in danger of treading beneath your feet contains secret wings which one day will soar up into the heavens beyond your reach or sight; and so we may have within us powers which are now imprisoned, and which will be emancipated in the hour of death. And among these may be the power of seeing spirits as well, or even better, than we can now see the bodies. There are, moreover, passages in the New Testament which seem incapable of explanation, except on the supposition of mutual recognition in Heaven. What, for example, shall we make of the language of our Lord, "Many, I say unto you, shall come from the east and the west, the north and the south, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven?" If we sit down at the same banquet of love with them, and yet know them not, why the distinct specification which is here given of their names? Would our Saviour mock us with the promise of giving us admission into an unknown company? His promises are not mockeries, but assurances that shalt be verified to the full. When our Saviour was on the Mount of Transfiguration there appeared unto Him Moses and Elias. What were the circumstances which enabled the three apostles to identify these glorified companions of our Lord we are not informed, but in some way or other they knew them. And if there were mutual recognition between these prophets of God there can surely be no reason for supposing that the same recognition may not subsist among other spirits of the just made perfect. The apostle tells us that he preaches Christ, "Warning every man, and teaching every man that he may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Again he says, "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing, are not even ye in the presence of the Lord Jesus at His coming? for ye are our glory and joy." Now, it would be impossible to find any meaning in these words, except on the supposition that he would see and know his converts at the last great day. And what meaning other than this of mutual recognition can we extract from the words in which St. Paul pours the balm of consolation into the souls of the Thessalonians who had lost their Christian friends? "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then shall we be for ever with the Lord; wherefore, comfort one another with these words." You cannot for moment imagine that we shall be in ignorance of each other in Heaven without turning these words into mockery.

(E: Mellor, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

WEB: But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."

On the Due Improvement of Domestic Bereavements
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